Robertson Research - or when “core business” isn’t core-business!

Robertson started out as geological consultancy working on limestone quarries in North Wales. The move into the oil and gas consultancy business heralded a switchback ride, with a stock market floatation, subsequent takeover and eventually a management buyout. PDM recalls the highlights of Robertson’s checkered past and reveals the thinking behind the Fugro deal.

Robertson Research was founded in 1961 as a geotechnical consultancy working on North Wales limestone quarries. By the late seventies, oil and gas had become the principle business of the company, which then had expanded with offices around the world.


In the 1980’s a stock market float was followed by an unsuccessful attempt to diversify out of oil and gas, and in 1991 Robertson was taken over by the Simon Group and merged with Horizon Exploration into Simon Petroleum Technology (SPT). But Simon Engineering, an erstwhile darling of the UK stock market, fell out of favor in the late 90’s and elected to sell non-core assets – including SPT. Parts of the organization were sold-off piecemeal, leaving the exploration services and a boutique seismic processing unit. These, along with the Robertson name, were liberated by a management buyout in 1996, with Simon remaining a shareholder – with a renewed focus on Petroleum.


The recent sale to Fugro was initiated by Simon Group’s desire to dispose its remaining stake in the company, considering that, despite good trading performance, Robertson was again “non core.” Ultimately this led to the sale of both Simon’s and the Robertson management’s stakes to Fugro. Crucial to the sale (for Simon and the Robertson management) was the recognition and continuance of the Robertson business strategy, market position and brand name.

No job losses

The Robertson Board insisted that there would be no job losses, no structural changes to the organization nor ‘anything that would have an adverse impact on its business and clients.’ Fugro was also required to demonstrate that it would further enhance the business by making available funds for future growth.

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